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Knockaloe Camp balancing bird toy or ornament

Date made: 1914-1918

Description: A wooden bird-shaped balancing toy or ornament. The bird is cut from a thin sheet of wood in the shape of bird (a parrot with a long tail) and then painted on both sides to look like a blue parrot with a red breast and tail. The bird has a metal spike inserted where the claws should be, so that it can be placed on the edge of table. The bird will balance and rock gently because of the long tail feathers provide a counterbalance. The bird was made in Knockaloe Camp and was collected by the Society of Friends as an example of the ingenuity of internees in making objects from scrap materials.

During the First World War (1914-1918) the Isle of Man was used as an internment base for civilian ‘enemy aliens’. Its biggest camp was known as Knockaloe Camp, Patrick, situated in the west of the Island (other historic names referring to the camp include Knockaloe P.O.W. Camp, Knockaloe Prisoner of War Camp and Knockaloe Alien Detention Camp). Originally designed for 5,000 people, at its peak it housed up to 23,000 men and as many as 30,000 men may have been interned in total. The confinement of the prisoners led to specific behavioural issues known as ‘barbed wire disease’. Receiving its name from the aimless promenading of inmates up and down the barbed-wire boundary, other symptoms included moroseness and avoidance of others. It was decided that providing practical stimulation would help. The Friends’ Emergency Committee (a Quaker organization) based in Great Britain was invited to the Island from 1915 onwards with the aim of providing books, tools, equipment and materials for the inmates to work and establish workshops.

Measurements: overall: 14.7 cm x 6.5 cm x .4 cm

Materials: metal, wood

Object name: ornament

Collection: Social History Collection

ID Number: L22135/3



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